Kelvin Grove SH classroom

The Australian Education System

Australian High Schools

Australia is sometimes called “the clever country”. Despite its relatively small population, it has produced many high-achievers in science, technology and the arts. So it is not surprising that the Australian Education System is one of the best in the world.

Australian high schools have strong standards, a comprehensive curriculum, and highly qualified teachers. High schools can be either state-owned (70% of students) or private (30%); all are subject to strict regulations and controls. There is emphasis on non-discrimination and equality of opportunity. In principle, a high school year in Australia and the relevant Australian school certificates are recognised and valued worldwide.

School in Australia begins with six years of primary education (years 1-6) followed by six years of high school (years 7-12). Students normally begin Primary School at age 5 and finish high school around 17-18 years old.

Graduates who successfully complete Years 11 and 12 receive a High School Certificate or “HSC” (comparable to a Baccalaureate or German “Abitur”) and can proceed to tertiary education (university or college). Each student’s HSC performance is ranked with a score from 1 (highest) to 25 (lowest), depending on subject combination and results. Most Australian universities set a minimum HSC score for student admission.

English is a compulsory subject in all Australian high schools. In most cases, mathematics, natural science and physical education are compulsory too. Some, such as mathematics, also have advanced modules for more ambitious students.

The compulsory subjects are taught in all of the Australian schools that we deal with. There is also a wide range of optional subjects, which you will find listed in detail in the information section on individual schools. (See The Schools).

Certain countries have particular curriculum specifications, so you should always check with your school first. For example, students in the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg must study two foreign languages. Choosing compatible subjects in Australia saves you from repeating anything when you get back home.

Quality Standards for International Students

ESOS. In 2000, Australia passed a special law (an “act of Parliament”) on Education Services for Overseas Students (“ESOS”). The ESOS Act sets standards to safeguard the interests of international students in Australia. High schools must meet the strict requirements of ESOS before they can accept any international students.

CRICOS. The Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (“CRICOS”) is an official monitoring body. Schools that accept international students must be registered with CRICOS and meet its requirements. CRICOS represents and provides a complete list of all teaching institutions and their individual range of courses for international students.

All high schools in our program are ESOS compliant and CRICOS registered. This means that they meet all official standards to cater for international students. Apart from its educational facilities, each school has a properly qualified support team, comprising of a coordinator for international students, a home-stay coordinator and a course advisor. Our schools have been involved for many years in teaching overseas students for many years, and helping them to achieve generally excellent experiences and results.

State Schools

State High Schools (“state schools” or “public schools”) cost very little for Australians, and so students come from a broad spectrum of the Australian community. State schools are not as formal as private schools regarding school uniforms for example. Apart from the basic subjects, state schools have great flexibility when it comes to the subjects they make available to their students. Individual schools offer a total of more than 50 different subjects, of which students must choose six (some are compulsory). Classes are held from 9 am to 3 pm. Sports activities – if selected – are also held during this time.

All state schools in our program have modern computer labs; some even have audio-visual recording studios. There are vocational training centres with state-of-the art technology, photo labs and multimedia facilities. Individual programs range from subjects such as music, dance, ballet and drama, to business administration, aeronautics and information technology. Sports include football, golf, tennis basketball and even surfing in some coastal areas. Certain schools also offer Excellence Programs with a large variety of languages, sports, arts and music.

There are also “regional programs” for state schools in smaller rural towns. The core subjects are always offered, but the number of optional ones may be more limited. If you are attracted to a quieter lifestyle, then these schools are a good money-saving alternative that delivers an educational level designed for all Australians. Details about the regional schools are available on a separate page.

Private Schools

Private schools in Australia can be compared with British private schools. The education level is demanding, and in a certain way more “academic” than at state schools. Many Australian parents will take the opportunity to send their children to a private school if they can.

Extra-curricular activities play a big role: almost all students are actively engaged in sports and/or music. There is always something happening before, during and after daily school hours – including weekends – and the options seem endless. In that respect, the higher school fees represent excellent value. These schools tend to have fewer overseas students, but they look after them individually and intensively.

Unlike state schools, some private schools are also boarding schools. This is important for children from big farms (called “stations”) in the country’s interior. School is often hundreds of kilometres away, and they can only go home during school holidays.

The private schools in our program offer multi-faceted opportunities. Students with musical experience can play in excellent orchestras (from classical to jazz) or sing in outstanding choirs. Sport is a priority; there are many teams and competitions against other schools. Often, private schools have their own swimming pool (sometimes even Olympic-size), tennis courts, cricket, rugby or soccer fields, or even their own golf courses. A school in Hervey Bay near Queensland’s Great Barrier Reef has motorboats for its marine biology classes, so students get to see whales, dolphins and tropical fish in real life. Very enticing, unless you are prone to seasickness!

Assessment of School Achievements

Achievements are assessed by means of homework, assignments, oral and written examinations, and practical assignments. At the end of each term, students receive a report card that describes their progress in the relevant subjects.

School Uniforms

Almost all state and private schools in Australia require students to wear school uniforms. Each high school has its own special uniform, and a shop where you can buy one new or used. The demand for second-hand uniforms is very useful for international students, because they can normally sell theirs quite easily before going home.

International Baccalaureate (IB)

The IB is basically a qualification to study at university. It is a form of international high school diploma (equivalent to Australian HSC, German “Abitur”, etc). It was originally intended for families who moved a lot because of work (diplomats, executives). In this way, IB students could receive a structured education and qualify for university in a variety of countries.

IB courses are now available in English, Spanish and French. The IB curriculum and diploma are recognised worldwide, and entitle graduates to enter university studies in 80 countries. In Queensland for example, the IB is currently offered at five schools – all of them are listed with Highschool Australia. We also offer IB programs in other states. The entry criteria for an IB program are quite selective. Students must demonstrate good scholastic achievements in a number of subjects in order to qualify.